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University of Pittsburgh    
2023-2024 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
  Jun 24, 2024
2023-2024 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog

Composition, Literacy and Pedagogy Certificate

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Graduate and Professional Degrees

The Department of English offers a PhD emphasizing Cultural and Critical Studies, and two Master’s degrees: an MA in English and an MFA in Writing. The PhD in English, open to applicants with at least a BA or its equivalent, encourages interdisciplinary scholarship. PhD students typically base their work in Composition/Rhetoric, Film Studies, or Literature, but the department fosters interdisciplinary work that draws on more than one program.  The department has a strong national reputation in composition and literacy studies, children’s literature, global film studies, and cultural theory.  Based in the Literature Program but including faculty members and PhD students across programs are four focal areas that provide curricular and extracurricular support for student work: Children’s Literature and Childhood Studies; Genealogies of Modernity; Media and Material Practices; and Race, Politics, and Empire. The MA in English provides broad familiarity with advanced studies in Composition/Rhetoric, Film Studies, and/or Literature. The MFA in Writing allows students to specialize in poetry, fiction, or nonfiction, while also integrating courses in literature and literary history. The department also offers a graduate-level certificate in Composition, Literacy, Pedagogy and Rhetoric.

Certificate in Composition, Literacy and Pedagogy

This graduate certificate recognizes sustained, advanced study in composition, literacy, and pedagogy. It can be awarded to students who have earned the MA, MFA, or PhD degree in the department of English, and to those earning graduate degrees in other programs and departments.

To qualify for the certificate, students must successfully complete 12 to 18 credits (depending upon the level of the certificate being awarded). More information about the certificate is online at


This graduate certificate recognizes sustained, advanced study in composition, literacy, pedagogy and rhetoric at the University of Pittsburgh. It can be awarded to students who have earned the MA, MFA, or PhD degree in the Department of English, and to those earning graduate degrees in other departments, programs, and institutions.

To qualify for the certificate, students must successfully complete ENGLIT 2500 - SEMINAR IN PEDAGOGY  (or an equivalent course in writing pedagogy), and a set of additional courses described below: the MA and MFA certificate will require three (3), and the PhD certificate five (5) additional courses. These courses are selected from among an array of seminars that represent intersecting strands of work in the Composition Program:

  • Composition, including study of the theories and practices of writing, within and beyond the field of Rhetoric and Composition;
  • Literacy, including research into public rhetorics and the literacies of diverse groups in the larger culture beyond the academy;
  • Pedagogy, including historical and critical inquiry into issues of schooling, teaching, and the institutions of academic writing;
  • Rhetoric, including the history and theory of rhetoric and its functioning in institutional, political and literary spheres of communication.

Students interested in the certificate should see the Director of Composition for initial advising. He or she will identify qualifying courses for the certificate in English and may approve courses in other departments at the University of Pittsburgh. One course of Directed Study may also be accepted for the certificate, with the approval of the Director of Composition. In order to graduate with this certificate, students must apply to the certificate program at least one semester in advance of their graduation. The application form can be obtained from the Graduate Administrator in the Department of English ( (

To qualify for the Graduate Certificate in composition, Literacy, Pedagogy, and Rhetoric, students are further required to produce a teaching portfolio. The portfolio must be submitted to the Director of Composition at least 3 weeks before the end of the semester in which the student plans to graduate. The portfolio assembles materials that document at least one of the following:

  • An ability to design and teach an effective undergraduate course or communitybased writing workshop;
  • Significant work in support of teaching: for instance, as a mentor to beginning teachers, or as an assistant in the administration of the Composition Program, the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project, or the Writing Center;
  • Demonstrated ability as a writing tutor in the Writing Center, in other university support services, or in afterschool programs for children.

Portfolios characteristically include teaching materials such as syllabi, assignments, exercises, and observations by peers and faculty members. Administrative documents may include reports, proposals, newsletters, Web pages, and other materials that demonstrate the work of the position, as well as statements of evaluation. Portfolios are reviewed by a committee of the composition faculty.

Notice that students have been awarded the Graduate Certificate in Composition, Literacy, Pedagogy, and Rhetoric appears on their final transcript for the MA, MFA, or PhD degree.


MA or MFA candidates without a teaching assistantship may replace ENGLIT 2500 - SEMINAR IN PEDAGOGY   with another course in composition, literacy and pedagogy and/or rhetoric. Courses that satisfy this requirement are designated each year by the Director of Composition.

Candidates are urged to consult with a member of the composition faculty while preparing a teaching portfolio.

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